In a Nutshell: As the student debt burden in the United States reaches critical levels, college hopefuls are increasingly trying to find alternative funding for their educations. Scholarships represent one of the most attractive ways to offset those high costs, and ScholarshipOwl takes the stress out of the application process through automation. The platform gives students more time to focus on the personalized aspects of scholarship applications — including essays and videos. And ScholarshipOwl resources can help users make the most of their education while minimizing its long-term financial impact.
Like many college students, Kenny Sandorffy — an Austrian native attending school in London — wanted to apply for scholarships to help fund his education. But he found himself bogged down in the application process, entering in the same personal information over and over again.
Sandorffy saw many aspects that could be streamlined for applicants, but, at the time, he had no choice but to do it the hard way.
“He found the entire process repetitive and long, and he wasn’t getting the most he could get out of it,” said Melanie Amini, Marketing Director at ScholarshipOwl. “Following his studies, he concluded that there should be a platform that enables students to enter everything in one form — all of the basic information including name, GPA, what they studied — and allow them to apply to hundreds of scholarships at one time.”
So, Sandorffy was joined by an ex-Google engineer David Tabachnikov, and together they built ScholarshipOwl to solve that problem. Since 2015, it has served nearly 5 million registered users. In its second year, activity on the platform began to explode as college students and hopefuls discovered it as an easy way to apply for scholarships.
Students enter their information once, and the platform takes care of the tedious work, enabling them to focus on the more nuanced aspects of the application process.
ScholarshipOwl helps college hopefuls maximize scholarship searches, which can significantly reduce the cost of their education, and put them on solid financial footing after graduation.
Funding College Careers While Allaying Fears of Debt
The cost of college tuition is a significant issue in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of tuition rose 63% from 2006 to 2016. And Nitro College reports that student loan debt doubled between 2004 and 2018, far surpassing both credit cards and auto loans.
As of 2019, U.S. student debt totals over $1.6 trillion, with an estimated 44.7 million Americans (or one in four) carrying student loan debt.
Another Nitro survey found that 41% of respondents who carried student loans couldn’t afford an emergency expense of $400 or more.
And the effects of that massive debt extend to the national level. Funds tied up in repaying student loans often keep entrepreneurs from starting small businesses, which are responsible for 60% of U.S. employment. Likewise, high debt hurts the housing industry and prevents borrowers from getting mortgages.
And those who are paying back student loans often have difficulty saving for retirement. That means they’ll work longer, which can increase labor competition and drive down wages.
“I’ve read the stats,” Amini said. “Thy are both mind-boggling and terrifying, especially for prospective students.”
Those numbers emphasize the importance of finding alternative funds and avoiding as much student loan debt as humanly possible. Scholarships are an ideal way of minimizing that impact, and ScholarshipOwl helps users with its extensive database of grants and opportunities.
Apply to Hundreds of Scholarships in as Little as a Week
The old way of applying for scholarships was to seek them out on your own and apply for them — one at a time. Even if two or more required the same information, you still had to fill it in manually.
But technology and scholarship listing sites may have made that task even more tedious by adding the prospect of repeating it dozens of times — or more — in hopes of finding success. That is the situation Sandorffy found himself in — and resolved to fix by creating ScholarshipOwl.
The site guides new users through a four-step registration process. First, they provide their name, email address, and other basic information. Based on that, the system aggregates a list of scholarships they are eligible to apply for. At that point, they will need to provide more information, including their GPA or where they plan to attend college. The final step is selecting a service plan.
“You can get a seven-day free trial after you put in your credit card information,” Amini said. “If you want to use the full service, there is a monthly fee, but most students get it all done during their seven-day free trial. They apply, they hear back, and it’s pretty succinct.”
If the applicant finds that seven days isn’t enough time to complete and submit their applications, they can choose from other options. The first is a monthly package for $20 per month, but most students opt for the quarterly package at $15 per month, which includes additional tools and features.
Many scholarships require essays or videos, which students can upload and attach to individual applications; ScholarshipOwl’s automation enables applicants to devote their time and attention to these more defining components.
“You’re saving a lot of time and earning more time to spend adding the you into an application and making it personal,” Amini said.
And after signing up, students are automatically registered for the platform’s monthly You Deserve It scholarship giveaway worth $1,000. That gives one student a head start on funding their college degree.
Resources and Services Help College Hopefuls Through the Application Process
Beyond automating the application process, ScholarshipOwl provides other products and services that are beneficial to college hopefuls and their families. One of the most popular is the ScholarshipOwl Academy, which offers counselor-run online courses that cover subjects like how to navigate college applications, ways to increase the chances of admission, reducing costs, writing dynamic entrance essays, and other relevant topics.
Some of the courses are free, while others are available for a small fee. They offer a breadth of information that students and parents can use for more effective college planning.
“Many students are the first ones in their family to go to college,” Amini said. “Their parents may be immigrants or just not knowledgeable about higher education in the U.S.”
ScholarshipOwl also offers an ebook, The Ultimate Guide to College Scholarships, that is available to registered users. It provides guidance on various types of scholarships, the application process, writing successful essays, and spotting scam scholarships. The book also offers more general college information — including tips on choosing the right college and degree programs.
ScholarshipOwl also offers free information on its blog, which covers relevant financial information about scholarships, including their effect on annual taxes, among many other topics.
All of those resources are designed to provide students and parents with more insight into college planning and help improve the prospects for academic and financial success.
Increasing Value for Foreign Students Seeking U.S. Degrees
ScholarshipOwl currently helps users with opportunities in the U.S. market, but its resources can be useful to international students who, like Sandorffy, want to study abroad. But ScholarshipOwl has its sights set on entering other markets.
Until then, ScholarshipOwl continues to provide an abundance of opportunities for students attending school in the United States. From informational resources to automated application assistance, the platform is a valuable tool not only for students but also for parents who want to understand the college funding and admission process.
By applying themselves to earning scholarships and preparing for the next phase of their education, students can earn their degrees with minimal monetary strain, and set themselves up for successful — and potentially even debt-free — lives after graduation.